In the movie Godfather III, mafia chief Michael Corleone meets with Cardinal Lamberto, reporting to the Cardinal that executives from the Vatican bank and even an Archbishop, have been involved in a massive case of fraud. After hearing this news Cardinal Lamberto moves to a water fountain, withdraws a stone and says: Look at this stone. It has been lying in the water for a very long time, but the water has not penetrated it." He breaks the stone in two, shows the inside to Don Michael and continues, "Look. Perfectly dry. The same thing has happened to men in Europe. For centuries they have been surrounded by Christianity, but Christ has not penetrated. Christ doesn't breathe within them."
In the second reading, Paul uses some key events in Israel’s history for moral exhortation: the past serves as an example that calls the Corinthians to repentance—precisely the point Jesus makes in reviewing contemporary events in Galilee. The first incident was apparently an act of political reprisal. Pilate, known for his brutality, had executed some pilgrims who came to Jerusalem to offer sacrifice; perhaps they had been implicated in some seditious or rebellious act. The second event was an accident at a construction site that took the lives of eighteen workers. Despite the differences in circumstances, all the victims met with an unexpected and sudden death. Jesus rejects the current religious explanation for such tragedies, namely, that they are sent by God as punishment for sin. If God punished sin in this way, than all Galileans (indeed all people!) should expect the same inasmuch as all sin. For Jesus, the fate of Pilate’s victims and of the workmen in Siloam is not an opportunity to speculate about their sins, but an invitation to disciples to put their own lives in order. He warns his hearers that “you will all perish as they did” (13:3,5)—not necessarily by tragedy, but suddenly and without warning, without the opportunity to repent. One cannot know when or how death will come. The time for repentance is now, while there is time. The brief parable about the fig tree is a story of God’s mercy. The owner of the orchard has already waited patiently three years for the fig tree to produce fruit. Although he decides to cut down the tree, he is dissuaded by the gardener who will redouble his effort to make the tree fruitful. The orchard owner agrees. But even the gardener acknowledges that the day will come when the unfruitful tree will be cut down. So it is with the ministry of Jesus. His call to repentance is an act of mercy, inviting people to avoid judgment. But there will be a day when time has run out and then it will be too late. Repent now!
My brothers and sisters when we think of sin we usually probably think of murder, adultery, the big juicy sins but most of us here are what I will call “everyday folk” but does that make us sinless? No, because the only two people that walked on this Earth that were sinless were Jesus and his blessed mother Mary. Unless either two of those people are in the pews here this morning than we all have some sins to deal with. We are like the fig tree that needs to be penetrated by God’s mercy and love as we heard the cardinal tell Michael Corleone. We need to let the light of Christ shine in those dark areas of our soul that haven’t been healed by his forgiveness.
Now some of you my brothers and sisters believe there are actions that could never be forgiven but that is not true. There is only one sin that God doesn’t forgive and that is the sin against the Holy Spirit. That means when you believe that God can’t forgive you than you are saying there are things God is prevented from doing and when you continue in that state of mind than you can’t be forgiven because you are sinning against the Holy Spirit. You are not letting God do his work.
St. Jose Maria Escriva who was canonized just a couple of years ago and is the founder of the lay movement Opus Dei says, “For a Christian, joy is a treasure. Only by offending God do we lost it, because sin is the fruit of selfishness, and selfishness is the root of sadness. Even then, a bit of joy survives under the debris of our soul: the knowledge that neither God nor his Mother can ever forget us. If we repent, if an act of sorrow springs from our heart, if we purify ourselves in the holy sacrament of penance, God comes out to meet and forgive us. Then there can be no sadness whatsoever. Then there is every right ‘to rejoice, because your brother was dead and has come back to life, was last and has been found.’
My brothers and sisters as St. JoseMaria Escriva mentions that we don’t find joy in the emptiness that sin will bring but we will find joy when we let Christ into our lives that brings us the forgiveness that we all are in need of.
In Psalm 103 we hear the words, “He pardons all your iniquities, heals all your ills. He redeems your life from destruction, crowns you with kindness and compassion. Merciful and gracious is the Lord, slow to anger and abounding in kindness. For as the heavens are high above the earth, so surpassing in his kindness toward those who fear him.”
This morning throughout the world we begin the series of scrutinies for the catechumens, the purpose of these scrutinies is mainly spiritual, and this is achieved by exorcisms. When we hear the word exorcism we might think of the famous movie that came out in the 70’s but the catechumens that undergo this exorcism are freed from the effects of sin and from the influence of the devil, and they are strengthened in their spiritual journey and open their hearts to receive the gifts of the Savior.
The scrutinies are intended to purify the Catechumens’ minds and hearts, to strengthen them against temptation, to purify their intentions, and to make firm their decision, so that they remain more closely united with Christ and make progress in their efforts to love God more deeply.
During these three scrutinies, they should be making progress in the understanding of sin and in the desire for salvation. So my dear catechumen and candidates this morning as you go forth from this place of worship with your catechists and sponsors be those people that are making progress to understand sin and the desire of salvation. Let your hearts burn for the Christ that you desire to follow but it only can be done when we realize our brokenness and let the Lord forgiving hand be upon us to heal us so that we can be whole. As you will hear the Gospel story of the Samaritan woman, realize that Jesus is the living water that give us life everlasting.
So my brothers and sisters let us rejoice and be glad and let us open up our total beings to God. Let us repent of what needs to be repented of so that we will no longer have the dark areas of our being but to let the light of Christ shine on us; to let Christ penetrate our being.
Living Liturgy, P. 77